Hot on the heels of Monday's report stating that a build of Windows 8.1 has been shipped off to OEMs for testing, sources are now telling ZDNet that consumers likely won't see the actual completed update until mid-October. This will be both for general availability of the 8.1 update as well as new hardware running the updated platform.
Windows 8.1 is supposedly now feature locked, meaning Microsoft doesn't plan to make any changes to Windows 8.1 save for what stems from OEM feedback and additional bug fixes. However, sources told ZDNet that Microsoft is on track to finalize the platform in the last week of August -- two weeks from now. Microsoft even stated last month that it planned to release RTM code to OEMs by August's end.
Last year Microsoft went RTM with Windows 8 on August 1, and then released the RTM bits to TechNet and MSDN subscribers in mid-August -- consumers didn't get the final version until late October 2012. For Windows 8.1, sources claim that Microsoft has no plans to follow the same schedule. Instead, Microsoft may release the final bits to existing Windows 8.1 Preview users shortly after RTM, as the company previously hinted that it actually wanted to shorten the span between RTM and general availability.
ZDNet points out that the Windows 8.1 Preview build has been rather buggy since its release, but Microsoft has also been dishing out patches on a regular basis. By holding on to the full RTM build until October, Microsoft can iron out the remaining RTM bugs and serve up patches to the Preview users. Microsoft is also expected to release a rather large update to the post-RTM code before it becomes generally available anyway. Thus in October Microsoft will likely release the final bits to Preview users and the full-blown package to those who elected to wait.
The most recent pre-escrow build of Windows 8.1 is 9471 which reveals that Skype will be pre-installed on machines with the new updated platform. Microsoft's Help & Tips app, which was revealed in June but not included in the Windows 8.1 Preview, also makes a partial appearance, providing video clips on how to use the company’s cloud storage, how to navigate the new Modern UI interface, and more.
The build also shows that Microsoft has updated core apps with better navigation. A narrow bar reportedly stretches across the top or bottom screen and features three dots on the right side, similar to what Microsoft does with Windows Phone 8 apps. These dots indicate that there are additional menu options that can be accessed by right-clicking on the screen, or by swiping from the top or bottom of the display or touchpad.